From this month’s newsletter:

One area that has seen significant improvement is space. Software techniques and hardware muscle have improved to the point where whole worlds can be modelled inside a computer. Large worlds were still obviously quantized in the early years. Mercenary which I have written about in length had a single building within every grid square and the underground complexes were constructed as a sequence of discrete boxes. You would have to turn to 2D games for something more realistic; the world of Ultima IV felt enormous, full of mountain ranges, dark forests and plains yet… even then, you still had ENTERING TOWNE.

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7 thoughts on “Discussion: The Silent Narrator

  1. What did you think of the Vogel piece? Having not played cuphead and experienced the boss rng, I found it a little weird. He wrote an article not too long ago (several years) about darkest dungeon and not catering to your hardcore audience too much, so it’s a little funny to see such praise for the allegedly brutal cuphead. Maybe it’s not so hard as people make it out to be? Maybe Vogel just likes the deeper mechanical rng? Just wasn’t sure what to make of it – thought you might have some thoughts given your comments on nex machina, difficulty, and locking the game from people who play on easier levels.

  2. “Regardless of developer intentions, they often see The Matrix for what it is.” True to a certain extent, but interestingly, a big part of my day job is persuading students to see The Matrix where they had previously only seen Blonde, Brunette, Gravelord Nito, etc.. For a lot of younger devs, learning about mechanics requires a paradigm shift into a kind of analytical thinking they aren’t used to as players.

    Oh, and about the Transmissions. I always /intend/ to be there, which is far more than I can say about any other live stream ever.

  3. The board of the 1979 game Magic Realm* is made of large hex tiles that you can put together in different configurations, kind of like Settlers of Catan I guess. You write down your moves in secret, so the tiles have short names. Together with the game art I always found the names evocative–Deep Woods, High Pass, Ledges, Borderlands; and another couple of elements, such as the Lost City and Lost Castle overrun with monsters and treasure, and the optimal weather rules that could summon “Nuts and Berries” weather which didn’t even have an impact on the game.

    For the TwinyJam, a jam of Twines of 300 words or less, I wrote a fangame for it. I don’t know if I was thinking of it at the time–I’m often thinking of it–but it reminds me a bit of the last chapter of Little, Big.

    And that’s my tribute to the unfamiliar virtues of concision.

    *I play it on an emulator–not too long ago I pulled out the copy that had moved from my parents’ attic to mine and found it was missing some critical pieces and also moldy. The pull of nostalgia was enough that I put it back in the attic instead of pitching it.

  4. Marcos

    Thanks! This thought only came to me while the words were being written, a very late addition.


    Howdy. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really thought of it in terms of “hardcore is gud” but was interested in his analysis of Cuphead’s difficulty. I actually thought, from the title, he was going to slate the game! I’m not going anywhere near the game, because I think I would just swear a lot. I’d rather try to play through the next difficulty of Nex Machina. The game is good; I want to see what the next level is like – early dabbling suggested I died a lot.

    Regardless, I’m pretty sure Cuphead could have lower difficulty modes. The problem for developers is having the resources to work on them – and having the guinea pigs to hone those modes. It’s a well-known problem that developers tend to be too good at their own game and pitch the difficulty at a level commensurate with their own skills rather than Joe Public.

    Mr. B
    Well, that sounds like some sort of teaching game design job? You kept that one quiet. I wonder if we’re talking about two different layers of Matrix, if you’ll permit me to be annoying.

    I suspect players of games that are full of numbers tend to gravitate towards a numerical understanding of all the components. Not everyone – some people will just look up advice on a wiki. But that wiki advice they’re using is still highly utilitarian. Are they able to strip away the symbols to reveal the grandeur of the complex system beneath? That system will have been serious work to put together.

    Do you agree? Disagree? I’m only pushing the point because when I said let’s get rid of the numbers everybody was like “shots fired”.


    Always guaranteed to pull in something I’ve never heard of. Magic Realm is a new one on me as is “Little, Big”. Then again, I did admit I’m not really reading books these days which is very sad.

    I just looked up a shot of the game and it made me very excited but then I saw all those chits and I was like, gah, do I really. I had similar experience with Talisman, a game that tends to go on too long, but we had good times when I was young. It’s too complex for my children right now – but the time is coming.

    The different names of the different spaces on the board provide flavour. Woods. Ruins. City. Temple. Fields. Being young this had a profound affect on me; I really felt these places as well as the larger, composite whole. On the whole, most of the names had little correlation with anything funky going on but that didn’t matter. The long duration also made the game feel like an “epic journey” which is not something you get from Monopoly 🙂

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